I’ve just entered the most intimidating, stressful, expensive and overwhelming period of being a parent. The worst part is, I had no idea it would be like this. I’m referring to college applications. 

Searching for the right college for your kid is like taking on a part-time job with incredibly high stakes and no training. Plus you have to empty out your bank account for the privilege of working there. Currently, I have a calendar with 14 separate dates and deadlines on it, and as much as I would like to hand off various tasks to my son, I also need to be sure that they will be done on time. Here is a conversation we had this morning when I dropped him off at school.

Erika: We need to decide soon if you want to try for Early Action, Early Decision or just regular admission to your first-choice school. They have different deadlines.

Aaron: Check it out: My math teacher just walked into that McDonald’s.

However, there is one, huge bright spot that has proven invaluable during this daunting time. My son has an amazing college counselor who’s provided a step-by-step blueprint for us to follow. I completely trust her expertise and, in fact, we’ve made numerous changes in strategy in response to her recommendations.

Applying for college is a relatively common rite of passage, but there are other, less universal processes that also carry a high level of importance. When a consumer decides to purchase a pool or spa, the choice of who to buy it from can make a monumental difference. And there is no real training, no helpful pool counselor to steer homeowners in the right direction.

Unless that person is you.

When you explain to a potential customer — in an honest, low-pressure way — how to tell if a pool or spa is good quality, you will gain that person’s confidence. Running down the competition only makes you look untrustworthy.

Many consumers are scared. Often, they’re paying all cash for a pool or spa, and spending that much money in a down economy is truly an act of faith. Everyone is aggressively vying for their business, and in most cases, this is their first exposure to our industry. All they know is that they don’t want to get ripped off.

Be their friend. Give of your knowledge base generously. If they select another company, wish them the best of luck with all good will. You may lose an individual sale, but at the end of the day, you may just win your market.